Project By Anna Krachey, Meghan Corbett, James Lewis

Inner Circle: The birth plan for friends and family


Introducing Inner Circle

Inner Circle is a web application that helps pregnant women create a birth plan for friends and family. By offering questions, prompts and examples from other women’s experiences, Inner Circle allows women to practice an assertive voice around their upcoming labor and delivery.

 

Our value promise

We promise to help you remain in control of how your friends and family support you during your pregnancy.

 

Background

One in three births results in a C-Section. The US is one of the most expensive places in the world to give birth, and we also have one of the highest maternal and infant death rates in the industrialized world.

We conducted research into this topic to find out why these things are happening in birth in our culture. We spoke to numerous women who were pregnant or recently gave birth. They had a diverse array of experiences and backgrounds, but we came to the following conclusion:

Our culture sees birth as a scary, out of control event that needs to be addressed as a procedure.

With advances in medical technology, birth has moved away from the home and community and into hospitals. While there are many benefits to that movement, one of the negative impacts seems to be that birth is no longer a normal event that other women in the community witnessed and participated in. Women who are pregnant today have likely never seen childbirth in person, or even an accurate media depiction. Americans are typically shown a hyperbolized scene of a screaming, out of control woman yelling at her partner.

During our research, we arrived at a more nuanced picture of labor and delivery. We set out to design a product to enable women to focus on labor and delivery as a long, hard, completely do-able and natural process.

Looking back over our research we thought of the different women who had positive and negative birth experiences. We divided up these experiences across a spectrum between positive births; those that leave the mother feeling empowered by her birth, setting the tone for motherhood and negative births: where the experience often leaves the mother feeling bowled over – like she wasn’t in control and didn’t know what was happening.

We began to see a correlation between a positive birth experience and the level of assertiveness a woman expressed surrounding her pregnancy, and the labor and delivery of her child.

We spoke to a woman who had a homebirth for her first child. In getting things ready, her midwife recommended she write an email to her friends and family setting guidelines, boundaries and expectations for how they should interact with her during labor and delivery. She wrote out an email which she sent shortly before she gave birth that she kindly shared with us. In it, she said:

“We ask that everyone stay out of the house and possibly at a remote location… unless you have been specifically asked to be present.”

and

“I have put [my friend] in charge of keeping all close to us updated with text messages so that as we get close to the baby’s [arrival], people can make their way closer to the house.”

The primary insight that drove our product design was that our culture sees birth as a scary, out of control event that needs to be addressed as a procedure. We’ve taken control away from the mother and put it into medicalized methods and procedures that doctors understand.

One of the primary reasons for this is that women don’t see birth anymore- we used to literally support each other through the labor and delivery process and so would see the birthing process unfold before actually going through it. Women saw that it was a long, hard but totally doable process that our bodies are designed for. When birth starting happening in hospitals, women stopped seeing birth until they went through it themselves. By that time, their vision of it had been incredibly flooded by the images from the media that it is crazy, out of control and needs to be intervened upon (which is where I imagined my own fear spawned from)

Our team wanted to design to enable women to have positive birth experiences. When women felt enabled to make informed decisions about their birth, they would end up feeling empowered by the experience instead of feeling bowled over by it.

We saw through our research that women that headed into birth feeling informed and assertive tended to have a more positive feeling about their birth experience afterwards, and women that were less informed and authoritative and had more of a “I’m going to roll up to the hospital and see what happens-I trust my doctor” attitude tended to feel more bowled over by the experience and have more negative feeling about the experience afterward.

One of our participants showed us an example of a birth plan that she had written for close friends and family detailing her wishes and setting boundaries around her upcoming home birth. Her plan helped friends and family feel included, let them know how they could help, and also allowed her to set boundaries with them. This email was a provocation for the design of our startup: Inner Circle: The Birth Plan for Friends and Family.

 

How it works

 

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A new user to Inner Circle is prompted to enter the basics of their birth.

 

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Next, they learn about the components of a birth plan. They can easily make changes to the various sections, describing how they want their birth to be presented to the friends and families.

 

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They can make selections about important topics, such as how they want their birth materials shared on social media.

 

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When they are done, they can publish their birth plan, so their friends and family can see it and respect their wishes around this important event.